Apprentices are a great way to develop new Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) and supplement existing resource.
However before you can start the process of setting one up, you'll need to get buy-in and support from key stakeholders.
There are many different ways to put together a successful business case for an apprenticeship. Here are some general tips based on my own experience to help guide you through the process:
- Set out the work of your team
How does your team contribute to the objectives of the wider business or authority and the important role, statutory duties and ambitions it may have? Include any successful projects or work programmes of strategic importance coming up. For example, consider the size and condition of the private rented sector in your area, how many homes have been improved by your team, why this is a local priority?
- Consider the cost of agency or temporary staff
Some of the roles performed by agency staff could be performed by a new apprentice, thereby significantly cutting costs.
- Future/succession planning
All organisations should be regularly looking at the age of their staff and planning ahead. This is the main issue in developing a stable and sustainable workforce. If we do not 'grow our own' EHPs, we will be severely hampered, or unable, to deliver services in the future.
- Review priorities or programmes
Are there any new or existing initiatives that an apprentice could support? For example, is there a new licensing scheme coming in? Would this apprentice also be able to cover any other roles within the organisation (which may be otherwise difficult to recruit to)?
- Localism and benefits to the local area
Creating and offering opportunities for young people to develop professional skills and qualities is an important role for local authorities. Employing local young people and developing their skills so their income contributes to the local economy and that opportunities are created to retain local, young talent is vital.
Some local authorities will only accept applications for apprentice positions from young people living in their area for this reason. Perhaps this is something to consider within your council leadership, as to the role the local authority can play in developing young, local talent?
Our view at Rother District Council is that an apprentice should work and contribute to the team over the course of the four year programme. It is a mistake to see an apprentice as merely a 'student'.
In our planning we will have the apprentice working in their first year in business support – this is a wonderful introduction to environmental health and involves learning both soft and technical skills to stand them in good stead.
The apprentice will then move from business support to pest control, then to pollution officer etc. The aim is to produce a well-rounded professional officer at the end of a four-year period.
The apprentice should not be seen as a burden (which I think students were) but rather as an employee who works and contributes to the environmental health team over a period of four years. Only by integrating them and seeing them as a resource will you truly feel the benefit that an apprentice can bring to your team.
- Explore other benefits
Some organisations may be able to sign up an apprentice to a five or six-year contract. This would mean that you could get the benefit of a fully trained EHP after they become fully qualified.
A good business case will also include some estimate of the costs involved in hiring the apprentice. Talk to your HR and finance departments to confirm the exact costs and ensure you are on the right track.
Things to consider include:
- Salary costs – check your organisation’s salaries and minimum wage policies to find out what salary the apprentice should start at
- Travel costs – employers will need to pay some expenses to the apprentice, such as travel to university
- National Insurance
- Pension contributions
- Any other benefits that apply to all staff
- Apprenticeship Levy
- New recruit/new apprentice incentives
- Savings made through any roles or agency staff replaced